So, Bud, how about those instant replays now?

If you thought you’d never see a worse umpiring call than the one Jim Joyce made to rob Armando Galarraga of a perfect game last year, Jerry Meals comprehensively proved you wrong last night.

This might be the worst umpiring call in the history of organised baseball.  If there was a worse one – one that was not made because the umpire was corrupt – I’d like to see it. And this to gift a walkoff run in the 19th inning too – what a way to lose a game. No wonder Clint Hurdle looked like he was going to blow a head gasket.

With the technology available today, on decisions as critical as this and Joyce’s there is no excuse whatsoever for a call this bad to stand unchallenged and uncorrected. If Meals genuinely thought Lugo was safe, he should be immediately removed from the umpire roster. There is no excuse for an error that egregious.

Of course, if Major League Baseball had a commissioner with any decision-making cojones, he would, for the good of the game, give in to the clamour for instant replays on decisions such as this and Joyce’s and cease confining them to home run calls. But as we all know and Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports describes so well here, it does not, it has Bud Selig.

Animal silliness

As everyone knows, the Internet is primarily used for two things:

Posting pictures of your cats

As much as I love the latter and am a proud daily contributor myself, the one thing I enjoy even more than I Can Haz Cheezburger is pictures of animals – especially, but not exclusively, cats – being jackasses towards other animals or, better still, humans.  I happened upon a site called Animals Being Dicks, and as the TV ad says, it does exactly what it says on the tin. Marvellous.

Three ballparks, part 1

I was reading the Joy of Sox article “21 Ball Parks” and thought I would write my own version about my ballpark visits. Being English and resident in the UK I don’t get to see many Major League baseball games and can’t even rely on getting to a game every time I go to the US, so not only can I list all of the parks I’ve visited – all three of them – but I can recall each of the eleven games I’ve seen.

Oakland, California

April 29, 2007: Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5, Oakland Athletics 3.
My first ever game, which I was really excited to attend. I was on a two-week work trip to Scotts Valley, CA and determined to squeeze in a game or two as it was my fourth trip to the US but the first that fell in the baseball season in a location remotely near a ballpark. I was staying in San Francisco the weekend I arrived and my friend Jason drove up from Santa Cruz with his son Orion, for whom it was also his first ever MLB game. We had seats along the first base line just beyond the opposition bullpen which afforded a pretty good view. The game itself wasn’t very exciting and I recall little about it.

What I do recall vividly is discovering for myself the truth of the MLB TV ads that ran a couple of years earlier: you really won’t see anything as green as your first sight of a Major League baseball field. It was a strange day – we discovered that a gasoline tanker had crashed and exploded on I-580 that morning causing a section to collapse; luckily Jason had taken a different route to the Coliseum from the Bay Bridge otherwise that would have caused us considerable delays. We sat in glorious sunshine during the game but as we drove back through San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge the weather turned and became very cold, overcast and then foggy; typical weird San Francisco weather.

September 24, 2009: Texas Rangers 3, Oakland Athletics 12.
My second visit to the Coliseum was Erin’s first Major League game, swiftly followed by her second later that day. These were actually her first ever baseball games of any form, even though she was born in Massachusetts and grew up in Maine and so is definitely a natural-born citizen of Red Sox Nation. So it was nice that we had a blazing hot day (I got sunburned), she got the ballpark hot dog she wanted, we had a fantastic view from seats a dozen rows back from home plate and the A’s put on a show for her, including a gargantuan Jack Cust homer way over the center field wall.

We both really liked the experience at the Coliseum, even though it’s a terrible facility by modern standards. It’s a cheap day out at an A’s game; tickets, parking (comparatively) and food are all reasonably priced.  Of course, the blazing sun each time I’ve been there has helped. Jason and I went to a Raiders game there against Seattle on Hallowe’en and sat up in Mount Davis and even then it was great. But I imagine it’s very different and altogether less fun when it’s cold and wet.

Wet cat

It’s decidedly odd weather we are having here today: alternating periods of warm sunshine and dark skies with very heavy rain and wind.  If it’s still raining when Erin gets back from London I had better go pick her up from the station otherwise she’ll end up like a drowned rat.

A thoroughly wet Toothless recently appeared in my office. I’m surprised at this; he’s not normally one to hang around outside and get his paws wet if it’s raining. I got a towel and dried him off which he seemed to appreciate.  It’s very noticeable that wet cat smells a great deal better than wet dog. Well, noticeable if you’re the kind of idiot constantly who frequently huffs your cat’s head and belly. And now Chairman has reappeared with only his tail damp.  Again, I’m surprised; Chairman is definitely one to stay outside when it’s wet – he’s never shown any sign whatsoever of being bothered by a spot of rain. When he’s outside he comes in when he’s bored or hungry, not when it’s raining. Speaking of Toothless, I was making lunch earlier when I heard a familiar chugging sound from outside the kitchen door. Wes was busy throwing up a bunch of grass on the hall carpet. Which was nice of him.

Interleague play: not excited

This weekend in Major League Baseball marks the beginning of this year’s phase of interleague play. MLB has implemented various innovations in the last twenty or so years and most of them are concepts I don’t like for various reasons but for which I can see some arguments: three-division leagues, wild card playoffs, awarding World Series home advantage to the All-Star game winner, for example. Interleague play is not one of them; I don’t like the idea at all.

I am entirely opposed to interleague play and for all the usual bluff traditionalist reasons.  It’s unfair to certain teams every year and unbalances the schedules by subtracting games against league opposition in favour of geographical matchups based on supposed desirability of tickets. This year the Red Sox play more games at both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the NL than at Oakland in the AL.  Why the fuck does that make sense? It doesn’t. And I don’t believe anyone in New England is really that excited at the prospect of a visit from the Cubs unless they’re Cubs fans whose nearest other location to see their team is New York.

Fundamentally, there is no good baseball reason for interleague play to exist; it’s solely a revenue-generating concept. Not that ideas which increase attendances are necessarily a bad thing – the more butts on seats in ballparks, the better. But after fifteen seasons, attendances are not being boosted by these matchups. The Yankees get at least 40,000 through the gates no matter who they play, they don’t need games against the Mets. The Giants have sold out every game this year because they’re World Series champs for the first time in 56 years, not because they’re playing the A’s this weekend. The Red Sox last failed to sell out Fenway Park 657 games ago – the opposition is entirely irrelevant. At the other end of the scale the Marlins can’t get more than 18,000 to a game because they play in a cavernous football stadium with terrible sightlines and no roof to protect against the inevitable Miami evening rain showers. The Rays have a competitive team for the fourth straight year but can’t persuade people to trek to St. Petersburg in large numbers; they get their biggest crowds for the regular AL East games with the Red Sox and Yankees because so many people come to support the opposition.

Yes, yes, I know: the idea was to give fans a chance to see so-called geographical rivals and other desirable opposition in the other league that they hadn’t seen in a long time – or ever, for expansion teams (and the Cubs). I concede that back in 1997 I can see why fans would be drawn to the novelty of the White Sox playing the Cubs, the Yankees playing the Mets and the Giants playing the A’s (even if it had only been eight years since the Bay Bridge World Series).  Beyond that, most of the teams don’t have a geographical rivalry other than the one in their division.  Cardinals fans care about the Cubs, not the Royals.  Red Sox fans care about beating the Yankees, not the Phillies.  Dodgers fans hate the Giants, they don’t care about the Angels.  Mets fans hate the Phillies. Interleague play is not going to create a rivalry between the Marlins and Rays or Rangers and Astros just because they’re both located in Florida and Texas respectively.

Some people object because they think they difference in Designated Hitter rules is unfair. I agree that this is relevant, but can be avoided providing that each team plays exactly the same number of interleague road games. I haven’t looked into this but I would be astounded if they did.  Of course that argument could also be obviated by either dumping the DH or by introducing it in the National League.  On the whole I would prefer DH standardisation, but I’m ambivalent about which way.  Sure, most pitchers can’t hit for all the tea in China, but on the other hand I like to see teams profit from having pitchers who make an effort to bat and I’m also a fan of small ball.

Oh well, it’s not like this idea is going anywhere while Bud Selig is in charge and hellbent on anything he thinks will make the owners more money. Don’t even get me started on expanding the playoffs.

Kitteh vom: my favourite thing

Marvellous. Just returned from the Post Office to find that One Of My Wife’s Cats* had decided that the living room carpet was missing a feline accoutrement and that a pile of puke was just the thing to complete the feng shui of the room.

* We have four cats; Willow is officially Erin’s cat and Chairman Miaow is officially my cat. Molly and Toothless are unofficially Erin’s and mine respectively. However, whenever any of them does anything bad they are all Erin’s cats. Capitalised and italicised for emphasis, too. As in:

“Once again, Your Cat has just covered my hat wth hair”.

Buy a fucking shovel

Further to my rant the other day on the subject of people whining about the weather comes this excellent site offering free assistance in  getting yourself prepared for next winter. As it so presciently observes:

The snowpocalypse has hit Britain, again, and you’ve still not bought a snow shovel. Naturally, all the shops have sold out and have no idea when they’ll get more.

So it offers to help you by sending you a reminder e-mail in the middle of next year. Truly a public service. Sign up, minions!

Yes, it’s snowing. Stop whining.

My patience is already exhausted with people kvetching about the weather and blaming $PUBLIC_BODY for failing to ensure their personal convenience. Guess what? One billion Red Chinese and Mama Nature don’t give a mouse-sized shit about your plans. The problem is not that this is yet another example of how useless Britain is at everything other countries do well. It’s that severe weather causes us problems because it’s so unusual. We aren’t prepared because we almost never need to be prepared.

In southern Germany drivers don’t slide all over the place because they have winter tyres. In Britain we do because we don’t; the reason we don’t is because we almost never need them. When my wife and I went to her dad’s in Maine for Christmas two years ago, Kennebunk had 30 inches of snow that day. This is entirely normal for a New England winter, so they cope. They have snow tyres, snow blowers, four-wheel drive vehicles, municipal snowploughs and domestic power generators in abundance – because they need them for months every winter.

In most of Britain, especially the south east and most especially London, 30 inches is about a quarter of a century’s cumulative snowfall. So how’s it the government’s fault that when London gets three inches in half an hour one freakish Saturday it inevitably causes problems? As Michael White says in this remarkably common-sense article in today’s Guardian:

Do we want to stockpile snow ploughs, salt, grit etc on a Russian scale when they haven’t been needed here since 1962-63 or possibly 1946-47?

Short answer: no, especially when public spending is already in a blizzard of coalition-driven economies, some of which will prove to be false ones.

In order words, stop whining. It’s nobody’s fault. There’s no one to blame, apart from Mother Nature and she couldn’t care less.

Don’t mess with the Splendid Splinter

I came across an amusing tale that would be pretty cool if true concerning what an umpire is reported to have said to a young pitcher.  Bear in mind that Ted Williams was the greatest player in Red Sox history, probably the greatest hitter of all time, the only hitter in the history of the baseball to bat .400 over an entire season and the owner of an on-base percentage record (.551) that stood for 61 years.  The story goes that a young pitcher was complaining about a pitch to Williams that the umpire called a ball. The umpire allegedly says, “Son, when the pitch is a strike, Mr. Williams will let you know.”

On a more irksome note, after an excellent win on Friday in Yankee Stadium on the back of another very solid performance from Clay Buchholz, Saturday’s and yesterday’s results were frustrating, to put it mildly.  On Saturday John Lackey once again demonstrated his inability to beat teams in the AL East or pitch well in the afternoon, not to mention his inability to admit that he didn’t pitch very well. He coughed up five earned runs in six innings and squandered an early 2-0 lead, resulting in a 5-2 win for the MFY.  Yesterday Josh Beckett struggled similarly and the Sox ended up losing 7-2.  With a bit of luck Jon Lester can improve on his recent struggles – he’s lost four in a row – when he starts tonight.

After tonight’s game it’s on to Toronto for a three-game series where the Blue Jays did the Sox a big and unanticipated favour by sweeping the Rays over the weekend and then on to Texas for three very tough games given how well the Rangers are playing at present.  By that point, however, the Sox should have both Ellsbury and Pedroia back.